Worming My Way To Wholeness
I’m staying in a little cabin at a retreat center West of Healdsburg, California seeking respite from my toxic daily routine of obsessive news checking and a generalized inability to focus adequately on my larger life goals. This place offers the healing energies of nature, a spiritual focus and the safety of staying near others. It’s been raining here, a lot — at least fifty-some inches in a little over four months. During the first night I was here the wind blew sheets of rain against the building. In the wee hours, the din of the deluge awakened even a deep sleeper like me. Later, when I got up I found a little red wiggler worm on the linoleum floor of the bathroom. Poor thing, she must have been seeking drier ground and come in through a vent or window casing. Filled with compassion for her plight, I carefully brought her outside to the leeward side of the cottage, beneath the roof overhang and gently laid her squirmy, nervous body on a patch of soft earth.
These past months and weeks have held events, personalities and unforeseen outcomes that have shaken me out of a former naiveté and complacency about the outer forces that affect my life. Just a year ago I believed that the human rights and women’s rights I witnessed being advanced in my lifetime were indisputable. I believed that the ability of our government to withstand regressive, vulgar power grabs was a foregone conclusion. Even though there have always been doomsayers, I paid them little heed. I felt secure that the rare confluence of idealism and pragmatism that forged our government along with our accustomed rights and privileges would endure. I didn’t think it could disintegrate with the rapidity that now threatens us.
Now I wish someone would swoop in and pick me up off the floor and carry me to sane ground. Yet I realize it’s an inside job. It’s my head. So, I have taken myself on a healing retreat. For the last four days I have rationed my consumption of breaking news on my cell phone. Walking along nature paths in between raindrops, I’m noticing the larger cycles of nature that embody inherent mechanisms that bring balance, elegance and artful solutions into places of disequilibrium. Rain brings an end to drought. Ground water finds a path to the stream. Rainbows bring radiant color after the darkness of a storm. Nature holds an inherent longing to bring order and beauty out of chaos, to fashion a simple, elegant solution from the disordered, repulsive or dysfunctional.
Here in the budding green of February in Northern California, I have come home to a healing sense of wholeness. On my way to morning prayers in the chapel this morning I saw a very large earthworm drowning in a big puddle of water on the blacktop. I was running late, I didn’t stop. The decision did not sit well with me, so after breakfast I returned to the puddle of water. The worm was still there. This time I listened to my heart. She crawled up on an oak leaf so I could carry her to safer ground. You may find this hard to believe, but that simple act provided me with sweet joy, not to mention what it did for the worm.
So for now, simple acts that weave me into the wholeness of nature offer a very effective antidote to my malaise. My firm resolve is to take what I’ve experienced these days on retreat back into town. My intention is to continue to wean myself from too much breaking news, allowing just enough information to stay informed. I’ll take walks, garden, meditate and engage in actions that hold deep meaning for me. If I start to forget, hopefully one of the many worms that make their home near mine will remind me to take care of my poor head by sinking back into the wisdom that resides in my heart.